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Speculation Begins On Who Will Be Oprah's Final Guest

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Media magnate Oprah Winfrey recently announced plans to end her "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2011, after 25 seasons. In a tearful message to viewers on Friday, Winfrey promised the top-rated program's final leg would be one to remember. Guest host Jennifer Ludden talks reporter Marcus Leshock, of WGN-TV and blogger for "Chicago Now." Leshock recently posted a blog, speculating who might be the final guest for Winfrey's last program.


After 24 years on the air, Oprah Winfrey announced, on Friday, she would end her show, �The Oprah Winfrey Show� in 2011.

(Soundbite of �The Oprah Winfrey Show�)

Ms. OPRAH WINFREY (Host, �The Oprah Winfrey Show�): After much prayer and months of careful thought, I've decided that next season, season 25, will be the last season of �The Oprah Winfrey Show.� These years with you, our viewers, have enriched my life beyond all measure.

LUDDEN: There are few talk-show hosts who've interviewed as many big name actors, authors and political dignitaries; Oprah's talked to them all. And this got us thinking about who might be chosen as the guest on Oprah's very last show - never mind it's almost two years away.

For ideas, we've called �Chicago Now� blogger and WGN-TV reporter Marcus Leshock. On his blog the �Leshock Value,� he lists some 20 or so contenders for this final guest chair and he joins us now.

Marcus, welcome.

Mr. MARCUS LESHOCK (Reporter, WGN-TV, blogger, the �Leshock Value�): Hello, Jennifer.

LUDDEN: So in your blog, you take the attitude that it's never too early to speculate about something like this.

Mr. LESHOCK: No, of course not, especially not on the Internet. Yeah, I finally have stopped crying here in Chicago. So many people are so upset about this. We were just talking about this in our news room; could any other person, ever on television, announce that they were going to retire in two years and it'd be like front page news?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LESHOCK: It's unbelievable.

LUDDEN: So, looking ahead, then, give us some of your contenders. Who might be that big time last guest on Oprah?

Mr. LESHOCK: Well, you know, I started the list just looking at people who have been on Oprah frequently. Somebody like Chris Rock I believe is in the lead with 11 times being on her show. Others like Jim Carey, Julia Roberts, people who might've been more popular about 10 years ago.

But from the people who've been on there very frequently, one of my favorite guests is Will Smith. Any time he's on �The Oprah Show� something wild happens. It doesn't matter if whatever he's promoting is garbage or anything like that, but whenever Will's on it seems to be a very exciting show. He could be a fun last guest.

LUDDEN: Well, I think we have a clip of one of his appearances there. Will Smith was a guest on the show in November of last year. Here's just after the election of President Obama.

(Soundbite of �The Oprah Winfrey Show�)

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. WINFREY: The �Chicago Sun Times�...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WINFREY: ...they just had the picture of him and it had - the only headline was Mr. President.

Mr. WILL SMITH (Actor, rapper): Wow.

Ms. WINFREY: I saw that...

Mr. SMITH: Wow.

Ms. WINFREY: Just saying it now makes me a little...

Mr. SMITH: Oprah, I'm not going to be - I'm an action hero. I can't be crying on your show.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WINFREY: I know. I know. Did you cry?

Mr. SMITH: I don't be crying and stuff, Oprah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SMITH: But listen...

Ms. WINFREY: I was crying.

Mr. SMITH: ...I was...

(Soundbite of crying)

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. WINFREY: I was...

(Soundbite of crying)

(Soundbite of applause)

LUDDEN: Okay. So Will Smith can go on Oprah and cry and maybe he doesn't do that anywhere else. What's a number two pick?

Mr. LESHOCK: A number two pick, of course, if we want to keep it on the celebrity front, Tom Cruise. How about ruining another couch on the Oprah Winfrey set? See that could be...

LUDDEN: She's probably got another one ready for him there.

Mr. LESHOCK: I'm sure she like snaps her fingers and the couch just appears out of nowhere, Oprah Winfrey. But that appearance had to be one of the most bizarre and captivating appearances ever on television.

LUDDEN: And this is, of course, when Tom Cruise declared his love for the lady who would become his wife, Katie Holmes, and let's relive a bit of the moment here.

(Soundbite of �The Oprah Winfrey Show�)

Ms. WINFREY: We've never seen you behave this way before.

Mr. TOM CRUISE (Actor): I know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WINFREY: Have you ever felt this way before?

(Soundbite of cheering)

LUDDEN: So maybe she'll get some more jumping around there. What about - let's go for a third. Pick number three.

Mr. LESHOCK: One for me, I would be very interested to hear from Mr. Stedman Graham. Are you familiar with who Stedman is if you're...

LUDDEN: I'm not.

Mr. LESHOCK: Well, Stedman is Oprah's longtime boyfriend.

LUDDEN: Ah ha.

Mr. LESHOCK: Who has lurked behind the scenes of this whole mess over the last 25 years, or so. I'd love to see him get up there on the stage and tell us some tales. I'm sure he has plenty things to talk about - what it's like to date Oprah.

LUDDEN: And see if she can get him to get as personal as some of the other folks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LESHOCK: There you go. And another one that's a personal favorite of mine, I would love this to happen being a longtime Chicagoan. Roger Ebert, the film critic, of course, of �Siskel and Ebert� back in the day. About 25 years ago, Roger Ebert went on a date with Oprah Winfrey and he convinced her to go into syndication.

A very interesting connection, two Chicago luminaries, to see him up on that stage, especially with all of the problems he's going through now with the cancer that he's fighting, it'd be very fitting, especially from a Chicagoan's point of view, to see those two up there and just talk about their life together and so many people don't know about that.

LUDDEN: Hmm. Kind of bringing it full circle, then, if he helped her launch.

Mr. LESHOCK: Yeah.

LUDDEN: This last show is, am I correct, it's supposed to be in September of...

Mr. LESHOCK: 2011.

LUDDEN: 2011.

Mr. LESHOCK: You don't have it circled on your calendar yet?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I was joking earlier, the Mayans were only one year off, the world will end in 2011 now, because Oprah won't be on TV. They'll be no reason to live anymore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: Okay. Well, it will still be a year before the next presidential election, but now am I crazy to think that Oprah, who kind of broke precedent here, by coming out and stomping for now-President Obama? You think she's going to go for that big of a get?

Mr. LESHOCK: Oh, I think for sure. And I think Obama would be foolish to turn her down. She did so much for him - campaigning for him back in the election there that that was my pick for the obvious choice to have both Barack Obama and Michelle Obama come out on the show and they can all raise their hands together and help them get to the White House again.

Some other people were saying maybe Sarah Palin, once again, will make an appearance because she might be running for president then. I don't think Oprah will have her on in 2011 like she had the other day, so�

LUDDEN: Well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Marcus Leshock is a feature at WGN-TV and blogger at �Chicago Now.� His blog is called the �Leshock Value� and he joined us from Chicago.

Thanks so much.

Mr. LESHOCK: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song, �Getting' Jiggy Wit It�)

Mr. SMITH: (Singing) ...with the ribbon, crib for my mom on the outskirts of Philly. You trying to flex on me, don't be silly, getting jiggy wit it. Na na na na na na na nana. Getting jiggy wit it...

LUDDEN: And that's our program for today and I'm Jennifer Ludden and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

Soundbite of song, �Getting' Jiggy Wit It�)

Mr. SMITH: (Singing) Na na na na na na na nana. Getting jiggy wit it. Na na na na na na na nana...

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